Fire Dancing, Dog Attack and Intense Emotions

10/05

Last night was eventful in that me and Jade had to hunt for a new room with a bed that wasn’t infested with red ants. Finally we found one. And apart from the noisy monkeys, I slept quite well.

My stomach isn’t hideous today, nor is it healthy. It keeps cramping and tricking me that I’m going to poo myself. Poor Anne almost did. “It’s coming out of me like lava! I’m really looking forward to having normal poos again.” Anne-Marie, Koh Sok, 10/05/2016. She has sprinted to the toilets at the harbour several times, and returns glum-faced. “Shouldn’t have eaten that crispy chicken” she adds. “Or that iced coffee. Or those smelly prawns yesterday.”

After almost 2hours on the ferry we arrive at Koh Samui. It’s a big island (51km) and feels more like a city because it’s so busy. It’s no Gili Air, that’s for sure.

Even though we were all tired from the travel day, we still had an ace night out. On the beach, cocktails, half naked Thai men fire dancing. The music was brilliant and my energetic, sober dancing had me fall over from spinning so much. I bruised my arm badly but it was worth it.

11/05

Beach day. 37 degrees but with the humidity it’s 48 apparently. Even with my factor 50 (been using 50 my whole trip) my face got a little pink. Not quite lobster, but an unwelcomed salmon. Not the best look.

Thailand is so uncomfortably hot at this time of year, you find yourself hunting out and loitering in convenience stores, just for some quality air-con.

12/05

Last night Anne went on the back of a scooter with some hippie pirate guy who worked in the reggae bar. She returned at 6am and had, what she describes as, “the best night of her life.” Apparently Thai men with tattoos, piercings and fire dancing skills are “her people” and her soul “belongs on an island.” I’m trying to keep this blog PG, so for the nitty gritty story, please see handwritten diary. I am very glad she is alive.

Bus > Harbour > Boat to Koh Tao. It sure is beautiful. Perfect even. A thousand times better than Koh Samui, but from what I had heard from fellow travellers, I knew it would be.

Had another very spicy green curry. Most of the others couldn’t handle it, but I thought it was delicious. My taste buds are getting stronger and stronger. Who’d have thought that 5 years ago I would have been known as the spice queen? (I’m also known as Big Daddy and Anne is Little Daddy).

I got my hair braided. One electric blue braid and I love it. Anne blessed my braid with some crazy. She looked into my eyes, stroked down the braid and whispered, “f*** shit uuuuup.” I was crying with laughter.

***

It worked. Felt like a new woman and had a fantastic night. We were picked from the crowds to join with performers and try fire-dancing. Felt pretty invincible and it is potentially a new career path…

13/05

Had a very long day out on the boat snorkelling today. Several of us got heat stoke. Monica threw up over the boat. Sian almost passed out.

At one point it turned us crazy. I stuck plastic straws to my teeth, thinking I was a walrus. Anne and Phil were almost in tears from their sunburn and Charles set his mouth on fire. Nobody knows why he did it but he singed his beard in the process and we were all crying with delirious laughter.

14/05

Feeling a bit better this morning. Went for a walk along the beach. Managed about 3k and then got attacked by a dog. It was a mongrel that was Labrador size with wiry, sandy hair and huge testicles. He charged towards me. He was jumping up and barking at me and I was so scared – too scared and panicked to cry. I want to go home. I want my normal life where my life isn’t at risk by wild, vicious dogs the moment I step out of the door.

Finally, he stops jumping up, but is circling my ankles. I try to walk slowly and he continues to circle. I love dogs back at home but these ones are different. They’re not pets. You know what they say about dogs imprinting? I genuinely believe that happened. Right there, right then. For the whole 3k back to the hotel, the scruffy dog would not leave my side. Except when we came across another dog – he would race towards it, attack it and then come straight back to me. He had become my protector. I have never known a dog to be so transfixed on me; not even my dog back at home (who I miss very much!)

I eventually arrived at the hotel resort. Of course, scruffy dog is still glued to my right ankle. How on earth do I get into my room without him!? I went back to reception and explained the situation. They laughed / were shocked and said they had never known that to happen before. In order for me to enter my room, alone, a man who worked at the hotel had to beat him away with a sweeping brush. This was difficult to watch. It was also difficult because he was so close to me and I almost got hit by the broom several times.

Taxi to harbour > some strange place I can’t remember > bus to Surat Thani > sleeper train to Bangkok. It has been an exhausting travelling day.

15/05

Jade has been my hero. I was feeling upset and she comforted me, knowing exactly what to say (maybe it helps that she’s a mental health nurse!?) I’m sad that the amazing friends that I have made in Thailand, fly home today / tomorrow. I’ll be alone and have 4 days to kill in Bangkok (an error with planning on my part). I feel both emotionally and physically drained. My whole body hurts and I feel dizzy from the exhaustion. Me and Jade went for a little walk around Lumphini Park and talked about anything and everything. I feel more confident about the next few days now, I need to rest, re-charge and look after myself. Before I know it, I’ll be flying to Hong Kong.

I felt very choked up saying goodbye to Anne, my hilarious crazy Canadian. And Jade, my Welsh beauty with a heart of gold. The reason we all got so emotional saying goodbye is because for the last 16 days we have been in each other’s pockets, sleeping next to each other every night. Seeing each other at our best and our worst. Last week, I saw Charles have a poo in a hole in the ground. We are family. As the Thais would say, we are “same same, but different.”

Anne: “don’t be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened.”

Island Addiction, The Real Bali & Sad Farewells

27/04

Today is my last full day on Gili Air. For the last two weeks, I have lived on an island and I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. Living a simpler life of no roads, no cars, no shoes makes the beautiful surroundings stand out even more. And let’s not forget the beautiful people.

I wrote in my last post about how many times I’ve said “I’m not leaving this island.” Not only do I not want to leave, but it’s a strange feeling that I CAN’T leave. After speaking to a few locals, apparently this feeling is normal. It has happened to a lot of people who just came to visit and now they live here. Gili Air (Air means water) is an island with water underneath. People believe that this makes it a very spiritual island and there is some unknown force that connects you to the island, making you stay. Sound kind of creepy? Sound like a load of rubbish? If I was to be back home and I was told that, I would have thought it was a load of naff. But I genuinely feel such a strong connection to the island, and then hearing the myth, I feel it makes sense. I have been the happiest and the calmest that I have been in a long time and I’ve also had an odd feeling that I’ve been here before.

Suffering from mild anxiety, these two weeks have been bliss. We spent our last night at Bunga Bar with Eddie and Hero. After a superb Gado Gado dish, Eddie mentioned that I’m a very calm and peaceful person. I’ve never, ever been called that before! (Would usually be described as an organised stress head).

***

Stressed Liv makes a dramatic return when Eilidh still hasn’t come back to our bungalow at 2am. I start to worry.

I wake up again at 3am and she’s still not there. Again at 4.

Oh god, what’s happened!? Should I go and look for her? No, that would be dangerous to go wandering alone at this time. She’s an adult, she’ll be fine. Plus, I left her with the other girls…

What if she’s not fine? What if she’s died? I’d feel so responsible. I’d have to fly home. How would I break the news to her mum!?

She stumbles in at 5am.

“I fell asleep on the beach. I spooned Hero.”

28/04

“I’m never drinking again” over and over again from Eilidh. How predictable.

“Of course you’re not…

***

I was very sad to say goodbye to Roo, to Gili and of course my little red head – Eilidh. 100 percent friends for life now.

***

Harbour > Padang Bay > Ubud. On the shuttle bus to Ubud, I sat next to a friendly, chatty chap from the UK – Chris. A blonde guy then gets on the bus and is about to sit next to me on the other side. He stares and points at Chris, and, I quote exactly: “I played with your dick last night!”

Chris looks mortified. “What!?”

“On Gili T. The bar. In the toilets. You were out of your mind, drunk. I was stood next to you in the urinals. You asked if I wanted to touch your penis so I laughed and wiggled it up and down.” (He did a hand gesture of a floppy willy). “Good to see you again mate!”

They both burst out laughing and gave each other a brotherly handshake, stretching across me, who was sat between them both. “What the actual heck” I say, and then start laughing too. The blonde guy then looks to the back of the bus to see a family sat behind us, giving him death stares. “Oh god, I am so sorry,” he says.

He then turns to me, ready to shake my hand. “I’m Luke by the way.”

“Erm. Hi Luke…”

29/04

Safely arrived in Ubud and had a delicious Nasi Goreng last night (Indonesia’s most famous rice dish). Literally had rice every day for the past 20 days.

When visiting the coffee plantation I sampled lots of amazing, fresh Balinese coffee. I liked them all but the coconut coffee & lemongrass tea were probably my favourite two. Luwak coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world (made from animal poo). Before sampling, we saw the Luwaks (they look similar to a cat). The Luwaks eat the coffee beans, then their poo is washed, then roasted. Quite interesting, but I wonder who on earth was the first person to think, “This will be a good idea.”

I also had a traditional Balinese breakfast made up fruits, banana fritters and rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves.

Today was quite a day. I feel now I have seen the real Bali. On a cycling trip, I went through rural villages where there were no tourists whatsoever (apart from me and the 2 others biking with me). We stuck out like a sore thumb. Most of the trip I was smiling thinking, YES! Finally! This is what I wanted to see – how it really is. I couldn’t believe that every tiny village must have at least 3 temples! Alongside learning more about Hinduism, I learnt a lot about the compounds (where people live). Every compound has its own temple and the oldest member of the family will sleep nearest the temple. The architecture is beautifully intricate – like a palace. However, the levels of poverty really don’t match up to the beauty. Some people look so poor, so old, so thin. Some were blind; some had a black mouth with no teeth. Some of the elderly had more wrinkles on their face than I thought was imaginable.

Needed a wee so went in a hole in the ground. That was an experience.

Jokes aside, it was a very special day. Apart from one moment – one moment which I wish didn’t happen. Riding along through very, very poor villages, I saw a dog. The poor creature had half of his back hanging off and half of his face too. I don’t know how it was still alive, let alone how it was still walking around. It was extremely disturbing and upsetting and I wish I hadn’t seen it. I felt choked up and nauseous the rest of the day. Although maybe I should appreciate that I did see it? That’s how it is. It is very much a wake up call that back home, we quite literally live in another world.

***

Tomorrow I fly to Singapore > Bangkok. I am, as always, both nervous and excited. Stress was running high yesterday when STA had mucked up my flight and so I couldn’t check in online. I would like to thank my Mum for being a hero and helping me sort it. It is very difficult being so far away, alone, without a phone when things go wrong.

Need I say how fabulous Indonesia has been? Filled to the brim with culture shocks, amazing food, beautiful surroundings and life long friends.

P.S. Just touched down safely in Singapore.

Eggs, Sticks and Crazy Hat Lady

2nd March

Rotorua smells of eggs. Not the “Mmmm eggs & bacon & buttery toast” kind of smell, but the rotten eggs kind of smell. This sulphur city is pretty stinky due to all the hot mud pools and thermal activity.

Today is a big day. It’s the Maori experience. We learnt lots, ate lots and then we ate some more. Before we entered the village, we had to elect a chief. We voted old Paul. Old Paul and the Maori chief greeted in the traditional way: touching noses twice, saying “Kia Ora” and then giving a short speech about why we are here. Old Paul almost went in for a third nose touch. Damn it Paul, making us look bad. Keep focused! Our feet walking on their land was a big moment. Women had to walk behind the men, and when we entered the sleeping rooms, no shoes were allowed.

These people take tradition very seriously. You can’t laugh. But with man-boobs jiggling and their eyes bulging, I had to bite my tongue a little.

We learnt about the carvings on the walls – the different Gods, influences and morals.

“Does anyone have any questions?”

Crazy hat lady raises her hand. “Can you remind me where the bathroom is?”

Crazy hat lady always asks irrelevant questions.

Time for cake. Unlimited cake. The banana bread was unreal. Deep fried scones with jam and cream was then followed by leaning Maori songs and dances and playing traditional games with sticks. The sticks were big – human height.

Crazy hat lady did not listen to the rules and threw her stick at the wrong time and almost took Jess’ eye out.

After more playful activities and learning about tattoos, carvings, fitness and fighting, it was time for the feast. Our little backpacker bellies were over the moon to digest mountains of roasted veggies, salads, fillets of fish, every meat you can imagine and the biggest, juiciest mussels on the planet. All meats are cooked underground for hours on end, to ensure tasty, tender goodness. Dessert didn’t disappoint either. Toffee sponge, custards, fruits and passion fruit pavlovas.

Our bloated bellies then got semi naked in bikinis and we got in the hot tubs and hit the bar. Then around midnight we gathered around a ginormous fire, roasted marshmallows and listened to Maori stories.

We stumbled into our beautiful tent room that might as well be a hotel and, quote Matt: “I think this was the best day of my life.”

***

Crazy hat lady wakes up before 5am, waking up innocent fellow travellers (ME).

Crazy hat lady unpacks her backpack and viciously rustles plastic bags.

Crazy hat lady gives a loud, running commentary: “I’m opening up my bag now…”

“I’m folding my clothes now…”

“I’m putting on my socks now…”

Crazy hat lady then irons every item of clothing with her hair straighteners.

What is life.

***

Breakfast was fit for a king.

Apart from my disturbed sleep, the Maori experience has been amazing. I’m relaxed, well fed, but most of all, I now have SO much respect for their culture and history.

Friendships, Humidity and a Near Death Experience Black Water Rafting

25th – 29th Feb

Before I left for travelling, people would gasp in horror when they found out I was travelling by myself. “By yourself!? Wow you’re so brave!” This ginormous gasp confused me. I thought it was extremely common for an early twenty-something girl to go travelling by herself. The gasp also worried me – had I bitten off more than I could chew? Will I feel isolated and lonely? Will some situations be scary without a good friend or loved one by my side?

This last month has really tested my social skills. At home, I am lucky in that I have always found making friends quite an easy ride. However, travelling alone certainly isn’t the same as making friends during Freshers Week at university or at a new school. When travelling, you’re thousands of miles away. You can’t just pop home if you’ve had a bad day.

I realise I’m making it sound all doom and gloom; that wasn’t my intention. I just wanted to stress it’s not always easy. However, the brilliant thing about travelling is that when you step out of your comfort zone and start conversations with strangers, you may just hit the jack pot. I was sad to say goodbye to the friendship group I made in the South Island, but these past few days I’ve met some incredible people. My time in Paihia, Auckland and Hot Water Beach has been full of laughs, never ending conversations, cool coffee shops and art museums. There’s been nights out, pizza and lots of new names that I won’t forget.

Take Matt – my new big brother. Never will I forget him cutting some dude’s hair after a few too many pints. Matt wore a head torch.

In addition, it felt like I had been friends with Jack and Emily for years. And after a perfect coffee shop & museum kind of day in Auckland when the weather was disgustingly humid, Martin and I are planning to meet up again when we’re both in Melbourne.

I now need to go and face the downpour to purchase a lock and key for my backpack because my other one is broken so I had to get reception to cut it. Nice one Liv.

Ah, I really hope this sweaty stormy weather dies off soon. The hostel I’m in is an absolute poo-hole and the humidity is not helping. I had a cold shower but because the showers and loos are so revolting, I still feel dirty. And with my handy yet stupid travel towel, I never feel dry. To stress how stinky the hostel is (every room smells of sweat / sick / feet)… After my shower, two guys join me in the lift. One of them asks, “have you just had a shower?” (Yes). “Oh my God, you smell so clean, it’s amazing!” He edges closer, sniffs my hair and smiles.

***

Was glad to be moving on from Auckland. We stopped off at Cathedral Cove on the way to Hot Water Beach. Even though it’s cloudy and rainy, it’s still beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful, I met a couple of girls who are the most glamorous travellers I’ve ever seen. Judging them on their immaculate appearance, I didn’t think we’d have much in common. My no make-up, scruffy self truly admired their efforts though. They were on my bus, so it wasn’t long before we were chatting. And guess what? I get on with them like a house on fire. I know I’ve said that about a few people but I mean I really, really like these girls – I know I want to and will stay in touch. Looks mean nothing.

Speaking of looks, Hot Water Beach looked rather strange. Hundreds of people, digging their own shallow spa pools in the sand. Some patches were insanely warm – so hot you’ve got to be careful not to get burnt. You’ve also got to be careful not to die. That happens here.

***

1st March

Journey to Waitomo today. I’m not heavy enough to do the Black Water Rafting, damnit. But then Arias (the driver) rang up and they gave me the ok! They just said that they will look after me extra well and give me extra layers to help with the cold.

Initially, I wasn’t sure about spending so much money on caving, but I’m so glad I did. It was fantastic! Yes, I really did feel the cold and was numb and frantically shivering at points, but it was worth it.

We entered a tiny hole in the ground to a whole other world. Tubing underground with rubber rings through fast flowing water, in the dark, was ace. Jumping backwards off waterfalls into darkness was pretty cool too. They warned us at one point about ‘The Human Blender.’ You really don’t want to fall down there… You probably won’t come back up….

No word of a lie, when I was tip-toeing around The Human Blender, I slipped and fell. The guide caught me! He saved my life! I didn’t fancy him before then but now he’s my hero. He also gave me his wetsuit jacket when I got super cold. That’s true love right there.

My favourite part of the adventure was when we all lay back in a line, holding onto the person’s feet behind us (like a caterpillar). We all turned off our head torches: complete darkness. Looking up, the rocks were speckled with glow worms – millions of them. I think it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. This wasn’t a manmade theme park ride. This was real. I’m underground, flowing through water on my back, admiring the sparkling-star-like glow worms above me. I’ve never taken drugs, but I imagine this is what the hardcore stuff feels like. SO TRIPPY! It was probably the most surreal, most enchanting thing I have ever done.